Slave Grandfather Syndrome

The appearance of the phenomenon of the slave grandfather is largely due to the changes that the family structure has undergone in recent decades. With the incorporation of women into the world of work and the increase in life expectancy, more and more older people take care of their grandchildren full time. This, in part, greatly facilitates the famous reconciliation of work and family life.

But where are the limits? You have to know how to respect your grandparents’ space. Do not forget that they have already raised their lives and their family.

Retirement is a moment that is experienced as a liberation. A time for rest and enjoyment. Thus, after a life dedicated to work, you celebrate that, finally, you can dedicate time to leisure and your hobbies. But what is happening today?

According to Colubi and Sancho (2016), the slave grandfather syndrome gives rise to  a set of psychological and physical symptoms that older people are suffering as a result of social changes. This set of symptoms also has consequences on different levels, starting with the physical.

Conciliation and role of grandparents in families

How important is the role of grandparents in families? Given the troubled times we have been living in for some years now, the support of the elderly has been and is a fundamental pillar to alleviate the social impact of the crisis on families. This support has been provided in several ways:

  • Financial support : many of our grandparents have been “forced” to support both their children and their grandchildren. With the arrival of the crisis, there have been many who, with their pension, have assumed the expenses and needs of the extended family.
  • Support for the tasks of caring for the grandchildren : with parents working outside the home for long hours, it has been the grandparents who have taken responsibility for the care of the grandchildren. Extracurricular activities, medical appointments, leisure time … Without the support of grandparents, many times it would not be possible to reach everything. Therefore, this has made it easier for parents to start their own families without giving up their working lives.
  • Help with housework : food, cleaning… Before the outbreak of the crisis, many families could afford to have employees who take over the housework. When the crisis began to take its toll on the family economy, this was no longer possible. This meant, again, that grandparents had to take care of all these tasks to support their children.

“Old age exists when you begin to say: I have never felt so young.”

-Jules Renard-

All of the above, on many occasions, has resulted in a dynamic in which grandparents are overloaded. This results in the slave grandfather syndrome. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to say “up to here” and set limits to avoid abuse.

Symptoms of the slave grandfather

In Soldevilla’s words, “What a priori could portray an effective and therapeutic enrichment formula for each other, in many cases has a background where the kind-hearted“ Sunamitism ”is closer to modern formulas of slavery that use strong emotional ties. by chains ”. (Soldevilla, 2008)

On the other hand, the slave grandfather syndrome does not confront the idea that the care of the grandchildren and the bonds that are created with them have beneficial effects. Triadó et al. (2008):

  • Enjoy the role.
  • Greater proximity.
  • Happiness.
  • Increased activity.
  • Safety of care.

However, this poorly focused relationship also has drawbacks and negative effects that in many cases would not make us speak of a “slave grandfather”. Triadó et al. (2008):

  • Tiredness and exhaustion.
  • Stress.
  • Feeling of attachment.
  • Little social life and little free time.
  • Worsening of health
  • Family discussions.

Limits and organization

Let’s remember that grandparents do not have the same energy and capacity as when they were our parents. In old age physical limitations may appear. Therefore, it is necessary to set limits and organize a routine in which there is a space that they can manage independently of their grandchildren. In other words, grandparents are also people with interests and interests of their own that must also be accommodated, redundantly with the grandfather himself and, indirectly, with the grandchildren.

You have to take into account their aspirations, their future plans, their preferences… Your opinion, although it may not be too adapted to the present, will always be backed by the value of experience ; especially in the human section, where perhaps we have not changed so much. In any case, they should not be forced to give up their lives for the care of their grandchildren.

Therefore, a good organization and distribution of tasks is essential. A planning that allows parents to organize themselves counting on grandparents only when necessary or when they want it. They are grandparents, but it is they who ultimately have the right to decide how they want to perform this role.